In November 1941, Army Group South, commanded by Field Marshal G. von Runstedt, achieved yet another success. November 19th advanced units of the 1st Division tank Colonel General E. von Kleist’s groups, breaking through heavy snow, captured Rostov-on-Don. Reading the victorious report on the capture of Rostov, Hitler believed that the gates to the Caucasus were open and in his hands. However, after some time, the Fuhrer learned that as a result of an unexpected and rapid onslaught of troops of the South-Western Front, commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union S.K. Tymoshenko, Kleist was forced to retreat. Not understanding what happened near Rostov, Hitler did not give consent to the withdrawal of German troops to the Mius River.
In December 1941, the German troops could not fulfill Hitler’s order to seize the Soviet capital. The plan of Operation Typhoon, during which the German troops were to be in Moscow, was thwarted by a counteroffensive by the Red Army.
During the battle of Moscow, the German divisions suffered their first major defeat. The troops of Army Group Center, commanded by Field Marshal F. von Bock, retreated in January 1942, leaving the space they had already conquered.
The transfer of Soviet troops to the counteroffensive in the Moscow battle stunned Hitler. The Fuhrer could not believe that his troops, which had won victories over the armies of almost all European states, were retreating. Trying to change the situation, Hitler dismissed Field Marshal von Bock.
On the eastern front there was a situation that could thwart the plans of the German command in the war against the USSR. Therefore, Hitler began to take measures that were supposed to change the situation, allow him to once again seize the strategic initiative and create conditions for achieving decisive success in the 1942 summer campaign. One of the emergency measures provided for the use against chemical forces of the Red Army chemical substances (agents), which were in excess in Germany, but the use of which was prohibited by international agreements.
However, this decision by Hitler in the spring of 1942 was thwarted. Successful actions of the Soviet military intelligence officers and the joint coordinated efforts of the Supreme Commander IV. Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Military intelligence reports caused special attention.
At the beginning of 1942, Moscow received from military intelligence officers operating in the capitals of a number of European countries reports that reflected the transfer of German troops from Germany and France to the eastern front, indicated enemy division numbers, locations for their future deployment, Germany’s military industry and production volumes weapons and ammunition.
24 January 1942 was sent to the Center from Switzerland by resident Sándor Rado, who led the activities of the Dora station, whose sources had access to important German military secrets, received an unexpected message that the chemical industry plants producing toxic substances were activated in Germany. The resident reported that he received information from the chief of the chemical defense department of the Swiss military ministry that showed a sharp increase in the production of chemical poisonous substances in Germany and signs that could indicate that the German command was preparing special units for the use of toxic substances against the Red Army troops.
Sandor Rado, head of the Dora station
In his encrypted report to the Chief of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army, Shandor Rado said: “... The Germans produce the following agents in large quantities: mustard, phosgene, diphosgene, diphenylarsyncyanide ...
Against all these agents, with the exception of mustard gas, in the German army only a three-layer filtering gas mask serves as protection. The filter consists of absorbing substances, two parts of coke with 3 parts of hexamine or other absorbing substances ... Against a lotion or mustard gas, only anti-nitrite suit serves as protection. ”
Sándor Rado said that he still doesn’t know why and for what specific purposes the Germans are increasing the production of chemical poisonous substances and promised to obtain new information on this issue.
In the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army, the message of S. Rado attracted the attention of specialists. The interest was caused by the fact that Germany began to increase the production of chemical poisonous substances in the period when German troops under the pressure of the Red Army suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Moscow.
Some other military intelligence officers reported on the revitalization of the chemical industry plants in Germany. This information could indicate that after the defeat of the German troops in the Battle of Moscow, Hitler made a serious decision to use chemical weapons on the eastern front. The use of chemical poisoning agents by the enemy could disable a significant number of front-line personnel defending Moscow, produce a strong psychological impact on Soviet soldiers and even disrupt the Soviet counteroffensive. The danger was great. The consequences of the use of chemical agents by the enemy were unpredictable. Therefore, the reports of S. Rado and other intelligence officers caused special attention from the command of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army.
The use of chemical weapons and bacteriological agents during the conduct of hostilities was prohibited in 1925 by the Geneva Protocol. The signing of this international treaty was caused by the dangerous consequences of the use of chemical gases during the First World War, when about 1,3 million people suffered from poisonous gases, of which about 100 thousand died.
The report of S. Rado, received from Switzerland, testified not only that Hitler could violate one of the important international treaties, but also plans to change the situation on the Soviet-German front with the help of a sudden use of chemical weapons.
January 28 1942 Acting Major-General A.P. Acting Chief of Military Intelligence Panfilov sent Sandor Rado with the following instructions: “... Comrade. Dore There is evidence that the Germans decided in principle in connection with the offensive of the Red Army to use poisonous substances on a massive scale on the Eastern Front. Immediately check through all your sources, especially through Groot, Lucie, Long and Salter:
a) is there a decision of Hitler and the headquarters of the High Command on this issue. At what stage and in which areas is the use of toxic substances (agents) planned?
b) Where are the chemical transports going?
c) Which plants in Germany and France produce toxic substances now, which chemical agents are produced and in what quantities?
d) Are there new agents? What kind?
All this data to send out of turn. Director.
Based on the data received by Shandor Rado and other residents in the Center, the head of military intelligence prepared and sent a special message to 30 on January 1942 of the State Defense Committee: “On the preparation of the German army for the use of chemicals”.
At the same time, the 1 Center in February 1942 sent to all residents operating in European countries, the task to obtain information about the state of the German chemical industry, about the location of plants that produce chemical warfare agents, asked for the chemical formulas of these agents.
Shandor Rado, who had good opportunities to obtain information on the composition of the units of the Wehrmacht, was sent an additional task, which required to establish:
“... 1) Do Germans have chemical divisions and where are they stationed?
2) What is the organization and armament of these divisions? ... ”.
The heads of the intelligence departments of the staffs of the fronts of the western direction were also directed to obtain information that could indicate the preparation of the enemy for the use of chemical agents against the Red Army.
Officers of the intelligence department of the headquarters of the Western Front, commanded by General of the Army GK Zhukov, obtained information that in the camp for prisoners of war, which was located in Varvarov (26 km southeast of the settlement Holm Zhurkovsky), the Germans carried out tests of a poisonous substance of a new type.
The head of the intelligence department of the front headquarters, Colonel Yakov Timofeevich Ilnitsky, reported to the Head of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army that the Germans were conducting these barbaric tests on Soviet prisoners of war equipped with Soviet gas masks. The experiment ended tragically - all the prisoners of war who were forced to take part in this experiment died.
Information about Germany’s preparation for use on the eastern front of chemical poisonous substances came to the Center and from a resident with the pseudonym "Conrad". 2 February 1942, Konrad, informed the Center that “... the Germans prepared a large quantity of containers for the transport of chemical toxic agents to be sent to the Eastern Front. Information obtained from the instructions received by the Railway Directorate ... ".
Performing the task of the military intelligence chief, Shandor Rado in February 1942 obtained new information that not only measures were taken by the German army that indicated preparations for the sudden use of chemical agents against the Red Army were being taken, but also measures were being taken to strengthen the anti-chemical defense in case the response of the Soviet command. According to Sh. Rado, who entered the 12 Center in February 1942, “... the German anti-tank forces are intensively carrying out chemical training. Each company has a non-commissioned officer as a chemical engineer. ”
Stake of the Supreme Command required accurate information about the plans of the enemy
16 February 1942, by order of the USSR People's Commissar of Defense No. 0033, the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Spacecraft was transformed into the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army (GRU General Staff). Major-General A.P. was appointed Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence. Panfilov.
Major General Alexey Pavlovich Panfilov, head of the GRU General Staff
The new position of the central military intelligence body in the General Staff system not only raised the status of the military intelligence command, but testified to the fact that military intelligence was the most important body to provide the highest political leadership of the USSR and the Red Army command with information about the enemy necessary for organizing effective defense and opening plans of the German command. The results of military intelligence activities during the Moscow battle showed that military intelligence officers were able to obtain valuable information about an adversary of a military, military-political and military-technical nature. Until the end of the war was still far away. The enemy was still strong. The Supreme Command Headquarters (Supreme Command) required precise information about its plans. Get them could only military intelligence.
In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Command Headquarters, measures were taken to improve the interaction of the GRU GSA spacecraft with the General Staff, which was to regularly define enemy reconnaissance tasks in the interests of planning and conducting combat operations by the Red Army. The GRU GSh KA concentrated in its hands the leadership of strategic, operational and tactical intelligence.
In the organizational structure of the GRU GSA SC, two departments were created: agent and information. Employees of the first were responsible for organizing agent intelligence. The department included departments: German, European, Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, sabotage, as well as front-line, army and district intelligence. The second department also had German, European, Far Eastern and other departments. The officers of this department developed intelligence reports, special messages for the top political leadership of the USSR and the command of the Red Army, daily reports, maps with the situation on the fronts, reference books and other documents. The number of personnel of the GRU GS KA was increased.
It was planned to improve the material support of military intelligence, and set specific tasks for equipping its forces with agents of radio intelligence and transport aviationidentified measures to improve the quality of training of military intelligence.
At a time when organizational changes were taking place in the Intelligence Directorate, reports of military intelligence officers on the situation at the front and plans of the German command continued to be received by the Center. Among those reports were reports of Hitler's plans for the use of chemical agents on the Soviet-German front. 22 February 1942. This information was used by the command of military intelligence in the next special message "On the continuing preparation of the German army for the use of chemical agents." This top-secret document is the head of military intelligence, Major General A.P. Panfilov sent I.V. Stalin, V.M. Molotov, G.M. Malenkov, N.A. Voznesensky, L.P. Beria, A.I. Mikoyan, L.M. Kaganovich, A.M. Vasilevsky and B.M. Shaposhnikov.
“... The data obtained by the Main Intelligence Directorate for February 1942 of the year,” reported Major General A.P. Panfilov, - confirm the continued accelerated preparation of the enemy to the use of chemical agents against the Red Army.
The activities of the German command are aimed at preparing for a chemical war not only at the front, but also deep in the rear.
The arrival of the chemical troops on the Bryansk and Kharkov directions was noted on the Eastern Front ... According to a number of sources, the start of chemical warfare is scheduled for this spring due to the alleged offensive. ”
Essential confirmation of the enemy’s preparation for chemical warfare was the task of the German command of his own intelligence service, obtained by military intelligence officers. Head of the Abwehr, Admiral F.V. Canaris demanded "... to establish the degree of readiness of the Red Army to conduct chemical warfare."
Concluding this special report, the head of military intelligence made an unequivocal conclusion: "... Accelerated preparation of the German army for the use of toxic substances is an indisputable fact."
In March, 1942, in accordance with the task of the General Staff, military intelligence had to solve the following tasks:
“1. Identify Germany's human resources capabilities for continuing the war in 1942.
2. Get data on the number and composition of new formations prepared by Germany in the depths of the country.
3. Determine the timing of the readiness of new formations and the time of their transfer to the Eastern Front.
4. Reveal the intentions of the German high command on the Eastern Front on 1942:
a) Obtain information on the main line of defense to which the German army should withdraw on the Eastern Front and on intermediate defensive lines in front of the Volkhov, North-Western, Kalinin and Western fronts of the Soviet troops. Set the initial front line south of Bryansk and Orel, with which the Germans are preparing to launch an offensive in the spring of 1942.
b) Determine the strategic reserves of the Germans, both within Germany and on the territory of the countries occupied by it.
c) To monitor and promptly warn about the transfer of these forces from one front to another, and especially to the Eastern Front.
5. Establish the real production capabilities of Germany in 1942 for the production of the main types of weapons (tanks, aircraft, artillery weapons).
6. Establish fuel reserves to continue the war and the possibility of its replenishment.
7. Establish the provision of personnel with the most important specialties (flight technical staff, specialists of tank units).
8. Establish what new weapons are being prepared by Germany and can be applied on a massive scale in 1942 (new types of aircraft, tanks and artillery systems). "
The measures taken by the Supreme Command headquarters have increased the effectiveness of military intelligence.
In the spring of 1942 from the overseas military intelligence residency, the Center received a significant amount of valuable information about the enemy. So, reports from Schandor Rado from Switzerland were received not only on the direction of the main attack on the eastern front in the summer campaign of 1942, but also on the state of the German chemical industry and the preparation of the German army for the use of chemical toxic substances on the eastern front.
Military intelligence reports on the preparation of the German command of a chemical strike against the Red Army troops continued to flow to the Intelligence Agency. The analysis of this information was carried out by specialists of the Center who had been trained at the Military Chemical Academy of the Red Army.
11 March 1942, on the basis of information received from residents, the head of military intelligence, Major General A.P. Panfilov prepared in the name of the Supreme Commander I.V. Stalin is another special message "On the continuing training of the Nazi troops for the chemical attack." The head of the GRU reported: “... the German command continues to prepare for a chemical war. It has been established that the chemical training of the German troops is carried out along the whole front. The enemy units located in the cities of Krasnogvardeisk, Pryluky, Nizhyn, Kharkov, Taganrog are intensively trained in the use of chemical toxic substances and measures against chemical protection. Part of the "SS" in Warsaw received an order to quickly proceed to the gas preparation. Noted cases of issuing gas masks sample 1941 year troops.
The transfer of poisonous substances and chemical munitions, mainly chemical shells and aerial bombs, to the Eastern Front continues ...
The enemy continues intensive preparations for a chemical attack ... ”.
Specialists of the Main Intelligence Directorate at the same time prepared for members of the Supreme Command Headquarters and the Chief of the General Staff a special report “On new means of chemical attack and on preparations for the mass use of flamethrowers by the German army.” In this special report, it was not without reason that the special units of the German army were armed with technical means that allowed them to apply chemical poisoning on a large scale.
The threat of the use of chemical warfare agents by the German troops on the eastern front was singled out as an independent line of work by the analyst officers. These specialists continued to monitor the signs of German preparation for the use of chemical warfare agents against the Red Army.
Additional instructions were issued to the intelligence departments of the front staffs operating on the Soviet-German front on the opening of enemy measures aimed at preparing for the use of chemical toxic agents.
Following the instructions of the Center, the intelligence officers produced the newest German gas mask "FE-41". At the Center, it was carefully studied and handed over to the specialists of the Main Military Chemical Department of the Red Army.
Specialists of the Chief Administration recommended the following type of German gas mask:
"... Studies of the new German gas mask" FE-41 "showed that this gas mask is of great interest to us, since it is in a constructive attitude, especially in protective power, significantly different from the old models of" FE-37. " To date, the FE-41 gas mask is the first foreign model to possess universal protective power ...
It is very important to establish what percentage of the German troops is supplied with these gas masks. In addition, for further study of the FE-41 gas masks, it is necessary to extract as many of them as possible ... ”.
Studying reports from residents of Dora, Conrad, and Edward, reports from the heads of intelligence departments of the headquarters of the Western fronts, the Center experts concluded that the threat of the use of various toxic substances and toxic gases by the German command on the Eastern front.
Churchill delivered a public warning to Germany
Military intelligence reports received by the Supreme Commander were subject to peer review by the Main Military Chemical Directorate of the Red Army. The data obtained by residents of military intelligence, were recognized as reliable and deserve special attention from the top political leadership of the USSR.
Stalin and the Red Army had several options for preventing Hitler’s chemical attack on the eastern front. The Supreme Commander could order to strengthen the anti-chemical defense of the troops. But from the reports of military intelligence in the Kremlin it was already known that the Germans had created new agents, from the effects of which Soviet gas masks were unable to protect the personnel of the Red Army.
Stalin could make an official statement and say that in the case of Germany using poisonous substances against the Red Army, the Soviet government reserves the right to use its own arsenal of chemical weapons against Germany too. However, it is unlikely that such a statement by Stalin could have stopped Hitler. He had already made his decision and was ready to implement it.
In Moscow, made the third decision. In a strictly secret manner, I.V. Stalin through the Soviet ambassador in London I.M. Maisky informed the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that Germany plans to use warfare agents on the eastern front.
Churchill took seriously the information that the Soviet ambassador informed him on Stalin’s instructions. He undoubtedly understood that if Hitler succeeded in using chemical poisonous substances on the eastern front with impunity, Germany would be able to use chemical weapons against the inhabitants of the British Isles.
21 March 1942 The British Prime Minister sent a private secret message to Stalin saying: “... Ambassador Maisky visited me for breakfast last week and mentioned some signs that the Germans, when trying to launch their spring offensive, can use gases against your country. After consulting with my colleagues and chiefs of staff, I want to assure you that His Majesty’s Government will consider any use of poisonous gases as weapons against Russia just as if these weapons were directed against us. I created enormous reserves of gas bombs for dropping from airplanes, and we will not fail to use these bombs for dropping on all suitable objects in West Germany, starting from the moment when your armies and people are attacked by similar means ... ”.
Further, Churchill continued: “... It seems necessary to consider the question of whether we should, at the appropriate moment, make a public warning that this is our decision. Such a warning could have kept the Germans from adding a new horror to the many into which they had already plunged the world. I ask you to tell me what you think about this, and whether the signs of preparation for a gas war by the Germans justify this warning ... ”.
From Churchill's message, Stalin learned that the British government was alarmed by Hitler’s preparations for the use of chemical weapons on the eastern front, and the British were ready to take measures against Germany. From a letter from Churchill, it was clear that Britain could only use chemical weapons against cities in West Germany. Objects on the territory of East Germany were to be hit by the appropriate means of the Red Army. Churchill, apparently, thus wanted to share with Stalin historical responsibility for the use of chemical weapons against Germany.
The main thing in Churchill's message was that he shared Stalin’s concern about the possibility of a chemical war and was ready to support the USSR in that war, if Hitler realized his plans.
Major-General A.P., Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Red Army Panfilov in March 1942 continued to report to I.V. Stalin new facts of Germany's preparation for the chemical war.
29 March 1942 Mr. Stalin replied to Churchill: “... I express to you the gratitude of the Soviet Government for the assurance that the British Government will consider any use of poisonous gases against the USSR by the Germans as if this weapon was directed against Great Britain, and that British air forces the forces will not fail to immediately use the large reserves of gas bombs in England for dropping onto suitable objects in Germany ... ”
“I think,” wrote Stalin to Churchill, “that it would be entirely expedient if the British Government soon issued a public warning that Britain would consider the use of poisonous gases against the USSR by Germany or Finland just as if this attack was made against England itself, and that England would have responded by using gases against Germany ... ”
Important in the message of Stalin was the proposal to Churchill, from which it followed that: "... if the British Government wishes, the USSR is ready in turn to make a similar warning to Germany, bearing in mind Germany’s possible gas attack on England."
Churchill accepted the proposals of Stalin. 10 April 1942 The British Prime Minister wrote to the Soviet leader: “... In early May, I will make a statement in which the Nazis will be warned about our use of poisonous gases in response to similar attacks on your country. The warning, of course, will apply equally to Finland, and it will also be mentioned, although I don’t see how we get to it. ”
The British Prime Minister agreed to accept in London a Soviet specialist in chemical defense and counter-offense in order to implement Stalin’s request to transfer to the Soviet Union certain chemical defenses, as well as chemical countermeasures.
Concluding his message, Churchill reported: “... Of course, if necessary, we will be able to provide you with the first nearest steamer, at least one thousand tons of mustard gas and one thousand tons of chlorine, before receiving this specialist’s message. Spraying with mustard gas represents a greater danger to the troops in the open field than for the residents in the cities ... ”
Stalin expressed his willingness to send to London, as his expert on chemical protection, Deputy People’s Commissar of the Chemical Industry A. Kasatkin.
Sandor Rado, a resident of military intelligence in Switzerland, showed exceptional persistence in obtaining information about the chemical weapons of the German army in the spring of 1942. 22 April, he told the head of military intelligence: "... the Germans are preparing as a last resort to disrupt the Russian resistance mass use of chemical bombs filled with tear gas ...".
Supreme Commander I.V. Stalin continued to keep secret correspondence with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on this issue. The leaders of the two states of the anti-Hitler coalition tried to work out a solution that would help to thwart Hitler’s plans to use chemical agents.
11 May 1942 Churchill told Stalin: “... When I will be on the radio tomorrow evening (Sunday), I intend to make a statement warning the Germans that if they start a chemical war against the Russian armies, we, of course, immediately But let us pay Germany the same ... ".
Churchill kept his promise.
14 in May 1942 was one of the residents of Soviet intelligence, who had sources in Germany, reported to the Center: “... Churchill’s speech on the use of gases against Germany was a huge impression on the German population in the event that the Germans used toxic agents on the Eastern Front . In the cities of Germany there are very few reliable gas shelters that can cover no more than 40% of the population ... ”.
According to this military intelligence resident, "... if Hitler used chemical weapons on the Eastern Front, about 60 percent of the German population would be killed by British gas bombs on a real retaliatory strike."
Fearing the imminent retaliation, Hitler in 1942 refused to use chemical warfare agents on the eastern and western fronts. The successful actions of the military intelligence officers, the persistent reports of the Chief of the GRU of the General Staff of the Red Army to the Supreme Commander and coordinated actions of the leaders of the USSR and Great Britain made it possible to disrupt these plans. The disruption of Hitler’s plans saved the lives of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers, and also prevented the use of poisonous substances against British and American troops by the German leadership during the Second World War.